The Summer Company program is designed to help high school, college, and university students between 15 and 29 years of age get startup money to kick off new businesses as well as advice and mentorship from local business leaders.
The program, funded by the Province of Ontario and delivered by the City of Toronto, has been helping students start and run their own businesses since 2001.
In place of a summer job, students can become their own boss, make their business idea a reality, and find out if they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur.
“I’ve always been pretty good with computers and I just wanted to start learning to code,” says Adam Simonini who built his website design company Creative Designs Toronto through the Summer Company program.
“[Summer Company] helped me stay focused and motivated and be confident that I was doing something good for myself,” he says. “I was meeting a lot of people, I was getting the training and funding, and so I could just put the blinders on and stay focused on creating.”
Justin Leon feels the same way. The program showed him what he needed to do to find clients for his barbecue cleaning business and successfully grow it during the course of the summer.
“When you’re working for yourself, you need a lot of self-accountability and discipline,” he says. “[Summer Company] really guided me into what I should be focusing on and who my target market was.”
“If you want to grow your own business, [Summer Company] is a perfect way to do it.”
In addition to helping young entrepreneurs build focus and discipline, the Summer Company program also provides important knowledge on the logistical aspects of starting a business, such as creating a business plan and structuring a venture.
“I didn’t know where to start,” says Michael Singh, who launched a liquidation business, Dr. Liquidator, through the program. “They helped me to clearly define my business and business plan.”
“When you start your own business, there’s a lot of confusion… especially if you don’t know what’s going on – Summer Company laid out the path for me and I followed it.”
The Summer Company program helps students turn their passions into functioning businesses with the potential for growth.
“I’ve played soccer all my life,” says Rio Fazio, who created Real Intense Outdoor Football Club, a fitness program for kids, with funding and mentorship from Summer Company. “I wanted to teach the kids throughout the summer that fitness is important and you can get it through soccer.”
Summer Company gave him the funding he needed to buy the equipment for his business as well as pay for advertising to attract new clients.
“What I took from the program is you really have to be focused… you (need) a good platform,” says Fazio. “If you don’t have a solid base you can’t build up, you’re just going to sink through it.”
Sherika Harris also found that the motivation and mentorship aspects of the program gave her the push she needed to turn her love of photography from a hobby into a real business.
“If it was on my own time I probably would’ve just found a little bit of time here and there to work on it, but because Summer Company required certain things (it) made me become a little more disciplined and a little more structured,” she says.
“Summer Company pushes you out there (to) start your business… It taught me how to be a better entrepreneur versus just an amateur doing a hobby.”
By giving student entrepreneurs the guidance and motivation they need to get their businesses off the ground, it doesn’t just create new ventures, but it also shows them that achieving their dreams is possible with hard work and focus.
The businesses formed through the program aren’t just successful in the sense that they grew and developed over the course of the summer, but the lessons learned by the entrepreneurs who participated will help them with their careers and future business ventures going forward.